A leap of faith

On Big Adoption Day, which is almost exactly 2 years since our son was placed in our home (hence just over 2 years since we met him for the first time), and a year since we had our celebration hearing, I’ve taken time to reflect on what an uncertain thing becoming an adopter can be.

Becoming an adopter takes several leaps of faith:

  • That your existing relationship is strong enough to get you through any challenges
  • That your support network will be available no matter what
  • That you can deal with whatever being an adopter can throw at you
  • That you’re not afraid of uncertainty

When we adopted,  we took all of these leaps, and more.

  • We placed our faith in our animals reacting well to the new arrival (or, at least not causing problems!). So much so that, had it not been the case, I’d already told our son’s social worker that if he didn’t get on with the animals/was allergic then he’d have to go back since they were here first! In hindsight, that was perhaps not the right thing to say (as I learned immediately I’d said it…), and fortunately we weren’t faced with such decisions.  Our animals have reacted brilliantly, particularly our dog who is our son’s best friend. They are pretty much inseparable – she looks out for him all the time and is quick to get to his side when he’s upset (although she also runs away if there’s any telling off being done – some loyalty!).
  • We reassured ourselves that we could cope with whatever was thrown at our newly extended family – that the uncertainty around our son’s future due to his diagnosis of FAS was something that we, along with our support network, could cope with. So far, so good. We’ve (well, my wife) arranged for his school to have training on FASD and have slowly educated those around us that, although he’s functioning in the same way as his peers now, that might change in the future. We’re starting to get to the age at which FAS becomes prevalent, and signs of how a child with FAS will cope with the future start to appear. Needless to say, we’re watching with baited breath – to see if his emotional and social development will continue in line with his peers, or whether he’ll need additional support to keep up. Regardless, we’re prepared to offer him support for as long as he needs it/we’re alive, whichever comes first.
  • We placed reliance on our support network always being there for us – each other; family, friends, employers, and professionals. We’ve found, however, that with the best will in the world it’s not worked out as we’d expected, so we’re changing our plans. We’re relocating to be closer to that vital support, and also to provide support in our own way to family members who need it. Having that proximity will make such a difference – we’ll feel more supported and be able to have more precious time back for our relationship.

Without doubt, at the time, the biggest leap of faith we took was to adopt a child with a diagnosis of FASD – with such uncertainty around his future we could have been forgiven for thinking again. But that’s the funny thing about adoption – as much as you can identify “issues” (there is no such thing as an adopted child without “issues” – they are placed for adoption for a reason) from a child’s past, or potential for difficulties in the future, that leap of faith is needed for you to truly discover that there is so much more to a child than a description on a profile. As adopters it is up to us to recognise that, to cherish our children and to give them all the love we can, no matter what. After all, that’s what makes our families special.

 

A love letter

From the moment I saw your smile

and the twinkle in your eyes

you were mine.

When all else seems hopeless

you can light up my heart

with a hug.

Without you I’m just a man

with you I’m more,

so much more.

My love grows stronger every day

more than yesterday 

less than tomorrow.

Together we can face anything 

in any place

at any time.

To my wife and my son

written for you

love always.

We’re special daddy…

Three years and one day ago today, adoption was something I was not willing to consider.

Three years ago today and that all changed. We had confirmation that our round of IVF had failed so that ended our chances of having a biological child.

We’d watched a documentary on adoption and had booked a long weekend away to get some time to think.

That weekend we relaxed, enjoyed time together and could have made a decision to stay like that forever – just the two of us without a care in the world  (except the dog and cats!).

Life would certainly have been very different, but somehow I just can’t imagine in what way.
The reason being that often it seems like there was no life before our little man came along – that he’s always been part of our lives.

True, we have ups and downs, highs and lows, and face a great deal of uncertainty in the future, but as he said to me tonight when I asked him what I should say when I talked to an adoption exploration evening tonight: “we’re special daddy”

Post adoption support 

One of the reasons we chose to adopt through Families That Last/After Adoption was because their family finding arm (Families That Last) evolved from what was originally just post adoption support (i.e. After Adoption).

We figured that they had been around for a long time specifically providing that support, so as and when we needed it we could be pretty sure they’d be there for us.

The other reason for choosing them was that the social workers we met in the first place were fabulous.

Although we hoped not to need any support,  we knew it would be there. 

As it is, we’ve not been desperate for any support – although they have been helpful in pursuing a few avenues on our behalf.

Strangely,  one of those offers of support came about because our family finding social worker (who in theory had done her job once wegot our adoption order and so could rest on her laurels) got in touch having read my blogs. She reached out to check we were OK and to see what support the agency could provide now, or what they might’ve been able to do in the past.

To be offered support without having to seek it was amazing and really cements our opinion of the agency.

It’s for that reason that I volunteer to tell our story to prospective adopters – through prep groups, information evenings and blogging – and intend to continue doing so as long as I’m wanted.

Depression helps…

I’ve found as a father/adopter/husband/son/friend that depression and anxiety has helped me.

OK, so that seems a little strange, but bear with me.

It’s not so much that being depressed or anxious has helped, but more the understanding of what I’ve been going through and how that impacts on my relationships with those around me.

I now recognise when I’m frustrated (it’s not that I didn’t before, but now I stop and think about whether it’s related to the immediate situation or the bigger picture of my health), which means that I can accept it, figure out how to overcome it in particular instances and move on.

I get less upset when people comment on what I have (or, more likely, haven’t) done and  I’m less likely to take it personally when those around me are upset.

The biggest impact though is that, by managing my anxiety levels, I’m able to react in a more balanced way with my son – essentially using the therapeutic parenting skills that I’ve been taught (or at least some those that I remember at the time!).

I hope that is helping our relationship and will ultimately help me beat my depression into submission. Snuggles this morning with lots of “I love you daddy”s and “You’re the best daddy in the world”s certainly seem to indicate that I’m at least going in the right direction.

 

The 12 days of adoption 

On the first day of Christmas adoption brought to me:

A son to complete our family 

On the second day of Christmas adoption brought to me:

Two new parents
and a son to complete our family 

On the third day of Christmas adoption brought to me:

Three big hugs
Two new parents
and a son to complete our family 

On the fourth day of Christmas adoption brought to me:

Four sleepless nights
Three big hugs
Two new parents
and a son to complete our family 

On the fifth day of Christmas adoption brought to me:

Five backup plans
Four sleepless nights
Three big hugs
Two new parents
and a son to complete our family 

On the sixth day of Christmas adoption brought to me:

Six social workers
Five backup plans
Four sleepless nights
Three big hugs
Two new parents
and a son to complete our family 

On the seventh day of Christmas adoption brought to me:

Seven family visits
Six social workers
Five backup plans
Four sleepless nights
Three big hugs
Two new parents
and a son to complete our family 

On the eighth day of Christmas adoption brought to me:

Eight weeks of worry
Seven family visits
Six social workers
Five backup plans
Four sleepless nights
Three big hugs
Two new parents
and a son to complete our family 

On the ninth day of Christmas adoption brought to me:

Nine old toys broken
Eight weeks of worry
Seven family visits
Six social workers
Five backup plans
Four sleepless nights
Three big hugs
Two new parents
and a son to complete our family 

On the tenth day of Christmas adoption brought to me:

Ten Santa’s grottos
Nine old toys broken
Eight weeks of worry
Seven family visits
Six social workers
Five backup plans
Four sleepless nights
Three big hugs
Two new parents
and a son to complete our family 

On the eleventh day of Christmas adoption brought to me:

Eleven pics a minute
Ten Santa’s grottos
Nine old toys broken
Eight weeks of worry
Seven family visits
Six social workers
Five backup plans
Four sleepless nights
Three big hugs
Two new parents
and a son to complete our family 

On the twelfth day of Christmas adoption brought to me:

Twelve days of waiting
Eleven pics a minute
Ten Santa’s grottos
Nine old toys broken
Eight weeks of worry
Seven family visits
Six social workers
Five backup plans
Four sleepless nights
Three big hugs
Two new parents
and a son to complete our family 

 

The greatest gift of all?

Let me take you back around 2000 years.

A man (let’s call him Joseph) had been told that his wife was having a baby. She had not been unfaithful, but it was someone else’s child and Joseph was expected to raise him.

Joseph knew that at some point in the future his son (let’s call him Jesus) would ask questions about his “birth dad”, but carried on regardless.

He brought his son up the way he saw best – teaching him how to follow in the family business, but allowed him to learn about his heritage by encouraging him to talk to religious scholars.

Jesus went on to know all about his “birth dad”, and even followed his calling. You don’t often hear how Joseph felt about that – the boy that he raised putting his life as a carpenter behind him and spending more time with his “birth dad”.

I’d like to think that Joseph knew what he was getting into – that raising the son of God would inevitably mean that child following some calling when he was older. Had he known how his son was to be persecuted and killed then I’m not sure he’d have been as keen…

Whether or not you believe in Jesus as the son of God, the story has parallels with modern day adopting – you enter into it knowing that you’re raising a child that is not biologically your own; and you rarely have full information about their heritage (hence blank looks when asked about hereditary conditions), but have to support your child in accessing that knowledge when appropriate. For me though, the greatest is that adoption made me a father when it seemed impossible that could happen, and that was the greatest gift anyone could give me.